Clarinet and Ukulele

Last week Fluff (13) had her first clarinet lesson. Her piano teacher also teaches clarinet so we’re very fortunate. Fluff often feels like she lives in the shadow of her sister, which is difficult when it’s your little sister. Chip (11) is one of those (annoying) people who is gifted at everything: she’s very academic, she’s a natural swimmer, she played for the school football team in primary school, she’s a gifted actress, she was voted form captain within the first fortnight of secondary school, she’s friends with everyone, she got the Head Teacher’s Commendation Award at the end of the first term (December ’16), she currently has both bronze and silver merit badges… Need I say more? I marvel at this girl. Is she really bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh?!

I adore my Chip but sometimes find it hard to relate to her seemingly inevitable success, not to mention her gushing abundance of self confidence. Fluff – fiercely independent, creative, very much her own person, not as academic but determined, a bit of a loner – I confess I relate to better. Fluff is currently discovering her innate talent for music (she’s just picked up my ukulele and begun playing, never having touched it before). We bought her a second-hand clarinet for Christmas and by the end of Boxing Day she was playing In the Bleak Midwinter.

The delightful thing, for me as her parent, is that because she’s not used to being as naturally good at something as her sister, she takes such joy in the discovery of music. She’s also recognised that hard work pays off: she has a natural talent but knows that musicianship is found in practise, and plenty of it.

I wonder if there’s a lesson in that? I wonder if something is the more wonderful when it is hard won? I wonder if joy is only truly found in the space between sorrows?

“The kingdom of heaven is like [yeast], which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till all of it was leavened.”

“…the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”

Matthew 13:33, 45-46 (NKJV)

emphasis mine

Looking for Love

After a few years… you will know that your deep and insatiable desiring came from God all along, [that] you went on a bit of a detour, looked for love in all the wrong places, and now have found what you really wanted anyway.

~ Richard Rohr, ‘Breathing Under Water’

“Set your heart on the kingdom and his goodness, and all these things will come to you as a matter of course.”

Matthew 6:33 (Phillips)

Humility

Why are our churches so full of pride? Why do we find so many people within the body of Christ whose goal is to be ‘right’ or ‘the best’ or in power? Why are there so many who would exclude and look down on others for certain things, but they neither offer a hand in love nor cease their own wrongdoings? Why is pride so often overlooked? Why do we let this incredibly destructive sin course through the very veins of the Church? Why is this so rarely preached about? I can recall a single sermon on humility. That’s it. In decades.

Reading the following scripture this morning made me think of our church’s new pastor. One of his foremost qualities that I really appreciate is his humility. He’s ready and willing to be a ‘true disciple’. How very sad that this is so rare.

[Jesus said,] ‘The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers… I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.” But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”

I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.’

Luke 18:9-14, NRSVA

Humility is not optional in the Kingdom.

 

Wayward Thoughts

matthew-6-33-bible

‘One way to recollect the mind easily in the time of prayer, and preserve it more in tranquillity, is not to let it wander too far at other times. Keep your mind strictly in the presence of God. Then being accustomed to think of Him often, you will find it easy to keep your mind calm in the time of prayer, or at least to recall it from its wanderings. I have told you already of the advantages we may draw from this practice of the presence of God. Let us set about it seriously and pray for one another.’

~ Brother Lawrence, eighth letter to a friend,

‘The Practice of the Presence of God’

‘…seek first the kingdom of God…’

Matt 6:33 (NKJV)

The Kingdom of God Expressed Through Community

As I was listening to Luke 14, I was thinking about the means by which the representation of love expresses itself. In other words how we, as followers of Jesus, manifest His presence to those around us. What does this look like? Then I came to this part:

‘When [Jesus] went into the house of one of the rulers… to eat bread, they were watching him… when he noticed how they chose the best seats, [he] said to them, “When you are invited by anyone… don’t sit in the best seat, since perhaps someone more honourable than you might be invited… and he who invited both of you would come and tell you [to move]… Then you would begin, with shame, to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes, he may tell you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ 

…He also said to the one who had invited him, “When you make a dinner or a supper, don’t call your friends, nor your brothers, nor your kinsmen, nor rich neighbours, or perhaps they might also return the favour, and pay you back. But when you make a feast, ask the poor, the maimed, the lame, or the blind; and you will be blessed, because they don’t have the resources to repay you. For you will be repaid in the resurrection of the righteous.”

When one of those who sat at the table with him heard these things, he said to him, “Blessed is he who will feast in God’s Kingdom!”

extract from Luke 14:1-15 (WEB)

Blessed indeed. Aren’t we, as followers of Jesus, literally those who have ‘invited’ Jesus? Isn’t this what we profess as the root of our faith? How many times have you invited your friends round for dinner, or similar? How many times have you invited the poor, the maimed, the lame… or whatever might be the 21st century equivalent? I can’t think of a single time when I have done the latter. Can you? I bow my head knowing how far I fall short.

I am also struck by the idea of the concurrence of humility, kindness and generosity. One doesn’t stand on its own, not when we know Jesus. They are all part of the same, part of the great language of agape, as Brother Andrew puts it.

It seems to me that everything in the Kingdom of God is expressed through community, and that one of the greatest lies of our times is that the world revolves around ‘me’.

Being a Good Mother

One of my biggest ‘issues’ which I have been addressing through EMDR is the sometimes crippling anxiety over being ‘a good mother’. There are many things that have led to this fear of being a bad mother, which I won’t go into now. I imagine that for those who have been abused, or have come from a dysfunctional family, the guilt and worry about not passing on the dysfunction can grow to huge proportions, and may end up having the opposite effect of the one we so desperately desire.

300px-Johannes_(Jan)_Vermeer_-_Christ_in_the_House_of_Martha_and_Mary_-_Google_Art_Project

Christ in the House of Mary and Martha by Johannes Vermeer

‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things…

Luke 10:41, 42 (WEB)

Listening this morning to Luke chapter 10, I heard Jesus’ words to Martha in a new light. Martha was not married, and wasn’t looking after children, nevertheless it is often the female way to want to get the nurturing right, and this is what Martha was trying to do. She knew how important Jesus was, but she was trying too hard. Her words to her guest speak of frustration, of worry that she’s not good enough, or that what she has to give isn’t good enough. She even blames her sister for her own worries (in what might nowadays be called passive-aggressive behaviour).

Jesus sees past the blame of my sister’s not good enough and past the worry of I’ll never be good enough and instead gives Martha words that have been repeated through the centuries:

‘…Martha received [Jesus] into her house. She had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she came up to him, and said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister left me to serve alone? Ask her therefore to help me.”

Jesus answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is needed. Mary has chosen the good part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10:38-42 (WEB)

Do you have Martha moments? I do. Thanks to EMDR God has allowed me some perspective on where any blame really lies. He has also given me forgiveness and love instead of the harsh criticism of my own head. Jesus’ words to Martha tell us that blame has no place in His Kingdom. All that is required is to focus on Him. As He said elsewhere:

“…seek first God’s Kingdom, and his righteousness…” Matthew 6:33

This is grace.

Happy Easter

We had our Easter egg hunt this morning, after we had read the Easter story in the Jesus Storybook Bible. Even Prince sat quietly and listened. I have to admit my eyes prickled and I had to pause when I came to this sentence: Was God really making everything sad come untrue?

Joy for sorrow, life for death, beauty for ashes… the whole world on its head and the Kingdom of God found among the lowly and broken. How wonderful!

 

Mary fell to the ground. Sudden tears filled her eyes and great sobs shook her whole body, and all she wanted in that moment was to cling to Jesus and never let him go.

“You’ll be able to hold on to me later, Mary,” Jesus said gently, “and always be close to me. But now, go and tell the others that I’m alive!”

From The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every story whispers his name

by Sally Lloyd-Jones

😀

Immersed Deeply

‘Then you will be like leaven which must lose itself in the dough to make it rise.’
So I lose myself to find myself. The most glorious discovery I have made in recent months, years, however long it is… and I’m not saying I am there yet, is that if I lose myself to Christ, if I accept my nothingness, my will as scrawny and silly, if I submit to being subsumed by His will… and my will doesn’t matter any more… then I am filled with joy and peace and wholeness and abundance. My grain-of-sand littleness is absorbed in His universe-bigness and I don’t have to worry about rules, or about sin, or about doing the right thing. I am learning (I am by no means there yet) that to hand the reins of my life over to Him is not a sacrifice at all. It is the Upside Down Kingdom again. I don’t let go of my life; I am absorbed by Life ~ ζωή

Contemplative in the Mud

MagdeleineImmerse yourself deeply among people by sharing their life, by friendship and by love. Give yourself to them completely, like Jesus who came to serve and not to be served; you, too, become one with them. Then you will be like leaven which must lose itself in the dough to make it rise.
Little Sister Magdeleine (1898–1989)

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